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In a future North America, where the citizens of Urban are organized into Categories based on their Ability, or special power, Nina struggles to find her true identity as a Category Zero. In the process, she unearths a world of deception— with her, and her Powerlessness, at the very center of something much bigger.

Scifi / Romance
Age Rating:

chapter one

The word life is supposed to be an important word.
It’s something barely captured but at the same time so fleeting.
But to me, life is--

“Ugly, dull and ultimately unpleasant,” Mallory says, crinkling her nose for effect. “The dress made me look like someone’s lonely aunt. So I went with the maroon strapless floor-length.”

“That’s exciting,” I comment, not actually meaning it. Of course, because who wants to hear anything about what dress Mallory plans to wear to the 16th Year Ceremony? Not me.

“I’m hoping that I’ll have time to get a little make-up done, but I don’t think most people even show up to those things in make-up. I just know we’re supposed to dress formally. I can’t imagine why, I mean, they’re holding it in the Assembly Room.” She says this with a certain amount of distaste. “I mean, imagine that place. It’s got, what? Graystone floors that are always cold and dusty, and that old, metal stage in the front of the room. That’ll make for the grimmest of ceremonies that I’ve ever been to, you know?”

“Yeah, definitely.”

“Are you even paying attention?”

I smile a little at that. “Of course I am, Mal. I’m just a little burnt out.”


“Daily life,” I roll my eyes. If I spent even a fraction of the time that Mallory does talking about my woes, complaining and just yapping away, she’d know exactly how much I hate my life. However, I wouldn’t really blame Mal’s ignorance entirely on her acute need to fill every moment of silence, because it’s my fault there are so many moments of silence to fill.

“So, are you excited?” Mallory, steers the conversation back to her chosen topic for the last hour. She spent the entire trip picking talking about the Ceremony and now she’s spending the entire way home talking about the Ceremony.

But in her defense, this ceremony is really where her life begins. She’ll get her job assignment, join the working world and no doubt withhold her steadfast Urban Pride. Mallory, at least, has something to be prideful about.

She’s a Category Three—a shape-shifter—who will no doubt get a job working directly for the Diction.
Not even some Category Four’s are that lucky.

I know I’m not. But I’m a Category One on record and a Category Zero in secret, so of course I wouldn’t be.

The 16th Year Ceremony for me is just another chance for me to get a good look at all I’ll be missing out on. It’s a perfect opportunity to witness but never experience happiness, to see smiling faces and pumping fists and not understand. Except, I know that this ceremony of all the ceremonies thus far in my academic career, will be the most painful.

No, not painful.

Mind numbing, soul numbing.


“Nina, I swear you’re vacant.” Mallory mutters, a distinct taste of irritation in her tone.

She’s right, though.

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